SOUTHAMPTON researchers have discovered vaccines that could be used as an alternative to antibiotics when treating urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Professor Bhaskar Somani, a consultant urological surgeon at University Hospital Southampton, led a team that conducted an extensive review of studies involving more than 3,000 patients worldwide with recurrent UTIs.

The findings compared the effectiveness of four types of vaccine – two oral and one each in suppository and injection form – with antibiotic therapy and placebos.

UTIs are the leading cause of bacterial infection, with half of all women in the UK experiencing at least one in their lifetime and one in 2,000 healthy men developing one each year.

Most are treated with a course of antibiotics, but this is increasingly difficult due to the resistance of organisms but also as antibiotics destroy healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal and genital tracts.

If a person suffers three of more episodes of UTIs in 12 months or two or more in six months the condition is deemed to be recurrent.

Prof Somani said: “A global action plan was developed in 2015 in response to growing global antibiotic resistance, with an urgent need to develop new and alternative methods to combat bacterial infection.

“Since UTIs account for a significant proportion of infections that need antibiotic treatment, it is essential to explore alternative therapies to it and vaccination offers an alternative but comprehensive evidence has been lacking.”

The review first looked at studies using oral option Uromune, which had a UTI-free rate for the vaccine group of up to 81 per cent at three months compared to 5.6 per cent for those on antibiotics and up to 78 per cent at 12 months.

The second, oral form UroVaxom, demonstrated a UTI-free rate of up to 87.5 per cent compared with 50 per cent of the placebo group and up to 78.6 per cent for the antibiotic therapy group.

The reported side effects were mild and varied from zero to 13 per cent across studies, while treatment withdrawal or exclusion due to adverse events was reported in only 11 patients.

Prof Somani said: “The evidence shows vaccines seem to have a short-term role in the prevention of recurrent UTIs with tolerable side effects.”